Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cold Water on Your Tourney Fun! Racist Seedings?

Here is a listing of the MEAC and SWAC teams that have been invited to the NCAA Men's Tournament in recent years and their seedings.

2007 - Florida A&M (play-in), Jackson State (16)
2006 - Hampton (play-in), Southern (16)
2005 - Alabama A&M (play-in), Delaware State (16)
2004 - Florida A&M (play-in), Alabama A&M (16)

If you go back further, you won't see much difference in the seeding fate of the MEAC and SWAC teams. Do you see a pattern? There may be one there. And it's disturbing. Are the seedings racist? Both the MEAC and SWAC are comprised of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), and it's unsettling to realize that they have been consistently ranked at the bottom of the tournament pool. Are the MEAC and SWAC conferences really inferior to the Horizons, Missouri Valleys and Mid-Continents of the world?

I can't believe the HBCU's aren't good enough to merit the occasional 13 seed. The systematic low seeding is problematic because it basically sabotages the MEAC and SWAC teams. I'm not asking for much. Remember when Hampton got that 15 seed in 2001? I think we all enjoyed that.

And although this hardly counts as statistical proof of conference quality, Consider that the MEAC and SWAC have two players in the NBA, one from Florida A&M and one from Jackson State. The NBA usually has 2 or 3 players from those conferences. The Big South conference, featuring tournament darling Winthrop, seeded at #11 this year, has none - and its not an anomaly.

The selection committee denies any bias, but acknowledges the issue:

But during a conference call Monday afternoon, selection committee chairman Gary Walters insisted no conference has been targeted for the play-in game.

"We have been sensitive for five or six years to the historically black colleges, and that's public information," Walters said. "But we look at those teams and, basically where we feel where there's a certain amount of equality, we like to try and rotate those games around the conferences. We're also trying to look at the overall RPI and all the same criteria that goes into selecting the first four lines."

Walters is saying the right thing, but the record doesn't indicate that there's been much rotation in the seedings.

Obviously, the selection committee has money on its mind, probably more than anything. I can understand favoring known sellers. But is the committee dropping the ball? For example, Florida A&M has about 12,000 current undergraduate students, with the corresponding tens of thousands of alumni. In contrast, tournament small school darling Gonzaga only has about 4,000 current students. The tournament is potentially neglecting a huge built in fan base by relegating the SWAC and MEAC schools. At least with football, the deep pockets are starting to take notice. The MEAC and SWAC have several football showcases every year that attract enough people to fill domes. Even NBC has started airing the football showdowns. Certainly the football support is not equivalent to the basketball support, but there's no reason to think that CBS can't engage its audience with HBCU teams seeded higher than 16, even if much of the audience will be learning for the first time what a HBCU is.

I didn't just pull this conspiracy out of thin air. Doug Gottlieb mentioned "racial politics" concerning the seeding on the Dan Patrick show today. Some speculated that FAMU head coach was alluding to it when he said, "If we're the 65th best team in this tournament this year, that surprises me. I don't think that's possible."

But, frankly, the HBCU's have to turn lemons into lemonade. Celebrate getting the spotlight on Tuesday night. And, who knows? Maybe the selection committee wants to make sure the audience gets to revel in the full glory of the HBCU bands. There's nothing worse than when some dork in the CBS production truck cuts away in the middle of a good song.

And the HBCU's have to speak up. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. If Jim Boeheim is good enough to complain, I definitely think these schools are obligated to speak up about any injustices they may or may not be suffering. How can the committee punish them? Take away their seemingly exclusive right to the play in game, lol?

And, handle your business, HBCU's. If tiny schools like Gonzaga can take advantage of the spotlight and become powerhouses, what's going in your house? TV is the great equalizer, haven't you heard? Every school has access to TV now and recruiting should reflect that. A MEAC school like Howard University is located in the center of Washington, DC. There's tons of basketball talent hooping in the playgrounds right on the blocks surrounding that school. The MEAC and the SWAC schools have no excuse but to let improved recruiting delegate their seedings, and not some committee full of old White guys.

I asked a buddy who went to Howard back in the day when he was a local basketball prospect. He remembered that the basketball program was disorganized, not even recruiting known basketball talent who otherwise ended up as students. And he complained that the unambitious attitude is pervasive. The teams are just happy to make it. They have no real expectations, no goals for the program. Bubble prospects would rather go to JUCO than some school that's not serious about their program. I don't know if all the HBCU's have similar atmospheres, but it's too bad. You can't expect the selection committee to raise your expectations for you.

It's uncomfortable to realize that there may be some diabolical conspiracy going on during one of the otherwise happiest times of the sports year. Cold water on my fun, for sure.


Mini Me said...

I think this is an interesting topic. To be honest, I hadn't heard or thought about racial seeding until reading this post. There could be some racial seeding going on, it is quite odd that these teams never receive a 15, 14, or 13 seed. It really makes you think.

Also, we at WBRS are going to be live-blogging the NCAA games all day and all night this Thursday! It would be sweet if you stopped by and check it out. The more the better.

Thanks, Mini Me

nation_of_islam_sportsblog said...


One of the contributing factors to the continued low seeding of the HBCU's is scheduling. In an effort to gain revenue, HBCU's generally engage a highly ambitious early season schedule as cannon fodder on the home floors of big programs. This hurts their records and doesn't afford them the chance to gain victories against mid-majors from other conferences that might help them come seeding time. Many of the mid-major programs are able to schedule a marque game or two with the big boys, and then schedule home and home series against mid majors from other conferences. At this point in time, the revenue in the atheletic departments at the HBCUs doesn't allow for the home and home with the mid's. They need the pay days as punching bags for the biggies.

Gangsta D said...

Just do away witht the play-in game. Do they really gain that much more revenue from an extra game? It doesn't enhance the tournament. The winner just ends up becoming lunch for a #1 seed anyway. What purpose does it serve? If there are going to be playin games, they should take the last four teams to get in and the last four cut and let them battle for the spots. THAT would be entertaining. Think Syracuse would come out fired up against Arkansas? Make it interesting/ functional, or get rid of it.

doublenicks said...

Let's assume - just for fun - that this isn't racism and instead it really is based on the quality of the teams. Haven't all our previous lessons related to segregation shown us drawing the best possible talent from a wide array of ethnic backgrounds produces the highest quality? Does anyone think that Major League Baseball had all the best talent when it was 100 percent white? If you want to pick on the NCAA for racism - and I'm not opposed to the concept - I think a better issue to focus on is the largely black population of collegiate athletes in massive revenue generating sports like football and basketball not being paid despite being the labor for a multi-million dollar industry.

MCBias said...

I can't find the article, which makes me sound like a terrible liar, but I read on ESPN/CNNSI/etc. that Niagara was chosen just so that it wouldn't be two historically black colleges again in the play-in game. However, the article also said that looking back, it usually wasn't two historically black colleges in the play-in game, either.

WastingCompanyTime6 said...

you can't really argue with the SWAC and MEAC teams being seeded low, but the fact that they are in the play-in game every year is a joke. Reason #3,452 to do away with or atleast re-vamp the play-in game

jay aych said...

Please don't use the race card here. The SWAC & MEAC are historically 2 of the lowest rated leagues in the NCAA. You can throw the NEC into this mix, and guess what, the NEC representative usually gets a 16-seed as well, and I believe the NEC rep was in the play-in game last year. The MEAC & SWAC reps usually have the lowest RPIs of all the teams, and are rightfully relegated to a 16-seed or play-in game status.

The NCAA PR guy (the Princeton AD) was on Mike & Maddog and basically admitted that Niagara was in the play-in so to be politically correct. Which is lame, because shouldn't the play-in game be for the 2 lowest rated teams no matter what?

Plus, the exposure in the play-in game ain't so bad. You get a stand alone game on Tuesday night with all the national exposure on two teams that normally don't get that type of attention. While on the other hand, you could just be relegated to a 1-16 or 2-15 matchup that only select regions of the country see going against 3 other games, unless the 16-seed can make a game of it in the 2nd half forcing CBS to switch the game to more regions.

Krista said...

Props to you for raising this issue....not sure I've ever seen it elevated in print before...stay on it girl!